The Rifleman

Lieutenant Colonel W. Hart-McHarg †
7th (1st British Columbia) BattalionHart-McHarg

There was much gloom and sorrow among the British Columbians that night for they all loved their colonel and they knew that there was very little hope for him. He died the following day at Poperinghe. Thus died one of the bravest of the Canadians, a splendid soldier, the champion sharpshooter of America, for that matter of the world. He had always displayed great coolness and daring, and British Columbia will always cherish and revere his name.

(Col. Currie, 15th Bn. The Red Watch, 1916, 233)

William Frederick Richard Hart-McHarg was one of three CEF colonels killed in action at the second battle of Ypres on 24 April 1915. A veteran of the Boer War, he was serving as second-in-command of the 6th Regiment at the outbreak of the Great War. The militia colonel, J. H. D. Hulme, stepped aside in order for Major Hart-McHarg to organize the 7th Battalion at Valcartier. Puzzled why Hulme would miss “the chance of a lifetime,” Hart-McHarg reasoned, “But with me it is different. I have only a couple of years to live in any case.”

The son of a British Army officer, Hart-McHarg was born at the Killkenny Barracks in Ireland on 16 February 1869. He was educated in Belgium, moved to Canada as a teenager, studied law in British Columbia and joined the militia. From his excellent marksmanship in national and international rifle competitions, he developed a reputation as “one of the finest shots In Canada, if not in the world.”

7thDuring the heavy fighting in Flanders through late April 1915, Hart-McHarg was shot in the stomach. After succumbing to his wound, fellow 6th Regiment officer Major Victor Odlum assumed command.

Odlum later explained:

In making this particular reconnaissance, Colonel McHarg proved himself the conscientious gallant officer and thorough gentleman that he had always been. It was not compulsory for him to make the reconnaissance. He could have sent others. He could even have satisfied himself with an examination of the situation from the top of the hill. He did neither— he went himself. He said he would not he doing his full duty were he to do otherwise.

Digitized Service File (LAC):
http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=pdf&app=CEF&id=B4122-S038

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